Mark Viviano: No More Stupid Stats In Flacco Debate!
I’ve long been of the mind that the WIN-LOSS record for baseball pitchers is one of the more over-stated and mis-representative statistics in sports. Pitchers are no doubt important to the outcome of baseball games but to assign a team result to an individual who participates in only half of the game is misguided. A pitcher can throw an outstanding game but if the batters on his team fail to produce runs, then that pitcher is declared a “loser.” Or a relief pitcher can face one batter and because of the timing of the runs scored in the game that pitcher can be declared a “winner.” Come on. That’s dumb.
The only stat that I found to be worse is the WON-LOSS record for football quarterbacks. It’s a number that’s routinely (and blindly) used as accepted and meaningful, and it’s rarely challenged for its validity. I’m throwing the challenge flag (again). During the recent mania over “Is Joe Flacco great/good/average/below average” debate, Flacco’s “WON-LOSS” record is quickly tossed into the argument. Fact: in the four seasons that Flacco’s been the Ravens quarterback, the team has amassed a record of 44 wins and 20 defeats. The Ravens public relations literature states Flacco has “the most victories of any QB in NFL history in his first four seasons.” That same literature points out that the Ravens defense has been among the best in the NFL over the past decade.
It’s my opinion that Joe Flacco is a good/very good NFL quarterback , but I’m not engaging in the specifics of that discussion right now. But if anyone who is and is using the WIN-LOSS stat to support an opinion, then this is for you. In the 2011 regular season, week four against the Jets: the Ravens defense scored three touchdowns while forcing four turnovers in a 34-17 Baltimore victory. Flacco completed 10 of 31 passes for 163 yards. Flacco gets credit for the “WIN” (for those who choose to buy into such a stat). Week 12 against San Francisco, the Ravens defense tied a team record with nine QB sacks of Alex Smith. Flacco completed 15 of 23 passes in a 16-6 Ravens victory. Flacco gets credit for the “WIN.” The following week against Cleveland, Flacco completed just 10 passes while Ray Rice rushed for 204 yards. Lardarius Webb returned a punt for a touchdown and the Ravens were victorious 24-10. Flacco gets credit for the “WIN.” Conversely, Flacco has had great numbers and thrown dramatic touchdowns (to Torrey Smith in the final seconds at Pittsburgh in week nine, for example) and the ‘WIN” stat seems to fit in those cases. The point is, it’s a vague, mis-representative stat and therefore relatively meaningless.
What’s Ray Lewis’ WIN-LOSS record? He’s the so-called “quarterback of the defense” and he’s on the field just as much, if not more, than Flacco. What’s Billy Cundiff’s (or Matt Stover’s) WIN-LOSS record? If either makes (or misses) a last second kick, then we say the kicker won (or lost) the game. Really? The point is this: there are 11 men on a side in football and ALL of them have some impact on the outcome of each play, and ultimately each game. Is the quarterback maybe the most important or most influential toward that outcome? To a degree yes, but to a degree that it’s accurate to assign him individual credit for a team outcome? I say no. Think about it. Please. Stop the dumbed-down discussion.
In the week leading up to the Ravens-Texans playoff matchup, I’ve heard the following analysis: this game will come down to which team wins the line of scrimmage, it’s the offensive and defensive lines. This game is a battle of running backs: Ray Rice vs. Arian Foster. This game is all about Cam Cameron vs. Wade Phillips, etc. All of those points are legit and all of them have merit. Point is: there are myriad factors and infinite permutations at play with 22 moving parts on the field and opposing brain trusts of coaches drawing up multiple options of attack and defense. It’s not just the quarterbacks. So why assign the QB the WIN-LOSS?
~posted by Mark Viviano